By Heather Haddon 

McDonald's Corp. pushed back at former CEO Steve Easterbrook's attempts to dismiss its lawsuit seeking to claw back his severance, saying that his attorney's questions about the thoroughness of its investigation into his affairs should be addressed in court.

The burger company fired Mr. Easterbrook without cause in November after he acknowledged having a consensual relationship with an employee. The company said in August that an investigation stemming from a tip found evidence that Mr. Easterbrook lied to investigators and its board to cover up additional sexual relationships with employees to secure a multimillion-dollar severance package.

McDonald's said its investigators unearthed email messages with attachments that contained dozens of nude and sexually explicit photos and videos of Mr. Easterbrook with company employees and other women between late 2018 and early 2019. Mr. Easterbrook allegedly destroyed that evidence off his electronic devices, and the company later found it on its computer servers.

Mr. Easterbrook's attorney, responding to the company's suit, said in a filing two weeks ago that McDonald's had his email account stored on company servers when it first investigated his conduct last October.

The attorney, Delaware-based Daniel Herr, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. He previously wrote that McDonald's filed a meritless and misleading lawsuit in the wrong court venue. Mr. Herr didn't comment directly on the allegations raised about Mr. Easterbrook's alleged sexual relationships within the company.

"This brazen attempt at table-turning has no merit," McDonald's wrote in a filing in Delaware Court of Chancery.

McDonald's said in the filing that the evidence would have been "buried somewhere in the tens of thousands of his emails" in the company's servers, and that critiques of the thoroughness of the company's investigation don't hold up.

The company has said its continuing investigation into Mr. Easterbrook is also looking into the possibility of whether the former CEO covered up improprieties by other employees, including personnel in the human-resources department led by its former HR chief, David Fairhurst. McDonald's said that Mr. Fairhurst was fired for cause soon after Mr. Easterbrook's termination for reportedly making women at the company uncomfortable on numerous occasions. Mr. Fairhurst said he left the company to pursue other career challenges.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 31, 2020 09:09 ET (13:09 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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